Ten police charged through the door looking for a maniac. They met me in my pyjamas: Composer Simon Boswell on the 'Kafkaesque nightmare' he faced after being wrongly accused of domestic violence against actress Lysette Anthony
After enduring a humiliating court ordeal, Bafta-nominated musician Simon Boswell has taken the difficult decision to write about exactly what happened to him – and to highlight the injustices suffered by men wrongly accused of domestic violence. The composer, 54, was found not guilty at a trial last month of assaulting his partner – the actress Lysette Anthony, 48. However, he says the authorities seriously mishandled his case and, despite the verdict, his reputation now lies in tatters. Mr Boswell, composer of more than 90 film scores, including Shallow Grave and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, says his decision to tell the story of his life with Ms Anthony, star of Eighties sitcom Three Up, Two Down, is in no way motivated by a desire for revenge – and that he is speaking out purely to start a much-needed debate…
During happier times: Simon Boswell and Lysette Anthony, at home in London's Belsize Park in 2004
Last month, I finally emerged from more than a year of hell, caused partly by Lysette Anthony, the woman I loved, and partly by the inept and biased police, Crown Prosecution Service and social services.
It does not come easily to me to publicly discuss my private life but I hope that by describing my horrendous experience I will highlight the sort of injustices endured by many men wrongly accused of domestic violence and help to start a much-needed debate.
The saga began in January last year when I was in Los Angeles for a screening and question-and-answer session at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. It was to promote the first US release on DVD of a movie called Santa Sangre, for which I had written the music back in 1989.
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Before the storm: Lysette during her modelling days in the Eighties
I felt as if humiliation was a big part of the police exercise. Neighbours gathered outside and others peered from their windows as our front door stood unnecessarily open, revealing me in my pyjamas surrounded by police officers.
Despite the fact that Lysette had retracted her accusation, I was taken away and slung in a police cell overnight, though I was not formally arrested.
I have found out since that police guidelines about ‘domestics’, as they call them, insist on the couple being separated and ‘cooling down’. However, it is invariably the male who is incarcerated – in this case, leaving Lysette with our child, in spite of us having joint and equal responsibility for him. Why is this
This was my first time in a police cell. After six hours, I was interviewed. The officer looked at me and said: ‘I know you, don’t I’ It transpired that he collected vinyl records and owned several by my band Advertising from the late Seventies. We then wasted some police time discussing the era and mutual friends who, as it happened, included Glen Matlock, the original bass player in the Sex Pistols.
I was told that no charges were to be made and the officer wished me well and said, ‘Say hi to Glen,’ before I stumbled, shocked and dazed, into the early morning Islington light.
It is testimony either to my stupidity or to just how much I was still in love with Lysette that I sought to repair our damaged relationship.
An aggressive officer confronted me and asked: 'Are you the b*****d what says she's got the menopause'
In spite of the advice of the minicab driver from India in whom I confided my woes on the way home, and who had warned ‘This woman, she is a snake. Cut the poison out of your life or she will strike again’, I returned to the house and wearily climbed into bed with Lysette and Jimi.
Over the next few months, however, we agreed that things weren’t working out and that we would sell the house and purchase two properties, and, though giving each other space, we would be ‘separate together’. On reflection, that sounds like nonsense, and so it proved.
When we got round to looking for new homes it became clear that Lysette was asking for far more than could be afforded. Though I always tried to talk quietly and rationally with her about financial issues and how our lives could work in the future, on every occasion, Lysette would end up in a blind rage, to my mind out of all proportion to the situation.
I did once try to delicately suggest to her that, bearing in mind her age, she may have issues to do with the menopause, and perhaps she should discuss this with her doctor. This resulted in a serious tirade by her and she reported my suggestion to the police as emotional abuse.
On one of the many occasions when she dialled 999 for no reason at all, I found myself confronted by a particularly aggressive police officer saying to me: ‘Are you the b*****d what says she’s got the menopause’ On another occasion when the police were called, they illegally took my door keys from me and gave them to Lysette. It was my house and there was no order or conditions at that point preventing me from being there.
Everything came to a head last May. I discovered that, behind my back, and while still sleeping with me and negotiating for more and more money, Lysette had been to the doctor and alleged that on April 9 I had assaulted her.
I believe any bruises she may have had were probably the result of her repeated attempts to jump out of our top-floor window on April 10, and of me dragging her back to save her. Then she ran a broken wine glass across her wrist until I shouted at her: ‘For God’s sake, you have a child!’
She then collapsed on the floor sobbing. Lysette said later that she never had any intention of jumping. Though that may have been true, at the time it was extremely scary and I had every reason to think she might do so.
The consequence of Lysette’s trip to the doctor on April 14, four days after this incident, was that Islington Social Services became involved and prepared a whole document about us and our son – all without my knowledge.
It wasn’t until May 23 that Lysette told me what had been going on. I was furious. For social services to make a report on my son’s welfare without talking to me seems astounding. Eventually I had to call them, to ask what this was all about. They were extremely helpful after that, and the matter was dropped. It does, however, raise serious questions about the whole issue.
On May 24, I told Lysette on the phone that the property she wanted was not affordable and that we needed to talk. She replied: ‘I’m going to have you arrested, you f*****.’
In spite of that threat, I went as usual to our house from my recording studio, to bathe Jimi and read him some Harry Potter in bed.
After that, I went downstairs to make some pasta, hoping beyond hope that Lysette and I could have a civilised discussion over supper. Lysette came downstairs screaming at me to leave. I continued preparing the meal. She dialled 999 and two officers arrived. I was still cooking. One officer went upstairs to talk to Lysette. It was another of those occasions on which I felt powerless, as if caught up in some Kafkaesque nightmare over which I had no control.
The officer who had talked to Lysette (on his own in our bedroom, by the way) came down and said he was arresting me. There had been no incident whatsoever, not even raised voices. I was handcuffed – more ritual humiliation – and marched out of the house. The extraordinary thing about having your rights ‘read’ to you is that they are delivered at breakneck speed, rather like the voiceover on some TV adverts where they say ‘Certain conditions apply’. All I can actually remember was that I had ‘a right to remain silent’.
I spent 22 hours in a cell at Islington Police Station before being interviewed. I believe 24 hours is the maximum, unless you are a terrorist. Clearly composers are a serious threat to national security.
I have always been a staunch supporter of the police but staring for that long at the ceiling in that confined space, with no communication at all, gives one much pause for thought. The stainless-steel toilet was smeared inside and out with excrement, and on the ceiling of the cell, above the hard, blue plastic bench on which one must sit or lie, there were many ‘bombs’ made out of toilet tissue and excrement. They were clearly going to fall at some point – possibly on one’s head or in one’s mouth if one could sleep in the midst of this living nightmare.
All this was quite a shock to a person who, in recent weeks, had been in Italy with the tenor Andrea Bocelli to record a song I had composed for him, had had a private audience with the Pope (no, I’m not a Catholic), and had conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
I was given no explanation for my detention. My request to call a friend or relative to tell them I was in custody was denied by the police. To all intents and purposes, I simply disappeared for a day – something one expects in Syria, not Islington.
My eldest son, Jack, 21, from a previous marriage, had coincidentally returned from college that day to see me and became panicked about my disappearance. I intend to take up this and many other matters with the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
I'm composing a work where the pianist has to wear handcuffs – dedicated to the PC who arrested me
After 22 hours I finally got to see a duty solicitor. Unlike seasoned criminals, film composers do not keep a personal lawyer on hand, just on the off-chance that they are going to be imprisoned. At this point I had been awake for 36 hours, ever-fearful of the falling excrement bombs. Keeping someone awake for that long is a tactic used in interrogation. Again, it’s something I would expect of a repressive foreign regime, not in jolly old England.
The police wanted to interview me but the kind solicitor I was assigned took one look at me and advised me I was in no condition to give articulate answers to any question, and advised me to reply ‘no comment’ to everything.
This is extremely difficult to do. The police asked me: ‘Do you think it’s right for a man to hit a woman’ I was aching to reply, as any decent person would be: ‘Of course not.’ But I had to bite my lip and reply: ‘No comment.’
Seizing on my evident discomfort, I was then asked: ‘Do you think it’s right for a man to take a hammer and hit a woman over the head’ My solicitor nudged me and I replied again: ‘No comment.’
There is a mounting sense that your refusal to answer the question is an implied admission of guilt. The whole situation becomes a tortuous internal struggle between one’s decent self and a system that seems designed to be intimidating. Above all, though, it feels like a cross between a quiz game and a Monty Python sketch.
I was half expecting to be asked: ‘Do you think it’s right to murder six million Jews’ To which I was surreally going to have to answer, ‘No comment.’ This farce continued for quite a while before the officer sighed and said: ‘I suppose your client is going to answer “No comment” to everything’ I thought, for a moment, of answering this question with a ‘No comment’ but I sensed the officer needed a cup of tea and the interview ended.
I was released on police bail, with the condition that I could not approach Lysette or communicate in any way with her. So, effectively, I was banned from my own home, still without any charge having been made. I had to live in the flat where I work and compose my music, which, though small, is comfortable. I am very lucky. Most men do not have the luxury of owning another property and in this circumstance have to fall back on friends or relatives to give them a sofa to sleep on.
Lysette Anthony with Oliver Reed in 1989's A Ghost In Monte Carlo
The worst consequence of the absurd bail condition was that it made it almost impossible to make arrangements for my son to visit me. Lysette seemed to have convinced herself that I was some kind of lunatic axe murderer, and would not even allow me to pick up Jimi or drop him off on the doorstep. What bothers me is that her allegations and ‘fears’ were taken at face value by the police, rather than scrutinised as indicating a volatile state of mind. My feelings, of course, were irrelevant.
All arrangements had to be made through solicitors – at huge expense – and Jimi was shunted from one friend’s house to the other. Lysette was able to decide, even when my weekend with Jimi came round, that I could not see him, knowing that I was not allowed to contact her or complain in any way. I became extremely stressed by all this. I believe my health suffered significantly.
After six weeks or so, I was finally charged with a single case of common assault, alleged to have occurred on April 9. The whole idea of being prosecuted for assault was horrendous and alien to me.
I am hugely relieved but it seems scant consolation for such a prolonged period of unfair treatment
The trial began on October 20. I had assembled a number of witnesses, including my son Jack, who had actually been present on the night of the alleged assault. That night, Lysette had gone to bed early, and Jack and I had sat up watching DVDs of our favourite show, Curb Your Enthusiasm.
No argument or fight took place at all, and Jack was to testify to that. Other witnesses were to recount the many desperate conversations I had had with them about Lysette’s window-jumping attempts. In the end, neither I nor any of these witnesses were called.
The magistrates, the prosecution and my defence lawyer spent the best part of three hours arguing over whether there was enough time to hold the trial – by which point, of course, there wasn’t, and it was postponed for another six weeks.
My bail conditions remained in place and the stress I was under remained as intense as ever. Finally, in court on December 13, the prosecution produced one photo – apparently taken by Lysette – of a bruise on a knee. I told the court about her attempts to jump out of the window on April 10. I was, as everyone now knows, found not guilty on December 13 at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court. A restraining order was requested but denied, and I was awarded all costs.
I am hugely relieved but it seems scant consolation for such a prolonged period of unfair treatment. I think my case raises all sorts of issues about police behaviour, Government guidelines, the practices of social services and the inflexibility of the Crown Prosecution Service, especially in relation to the issue of children’s best interests.
I am saddened by the damage this may have done to my sons, and the unpleasantness that has been forced on my parents and friends. And I thank them and my lawyer Caroline Jackson of Kaim Todner for their incredible support. I am amazed that the Crown Prosecution Service was prepared to waste so much money on a case with such flimsy evidence.
I understand that, owing to guidelines brought in by the Labour Government, whenever there are allegations of domestic violence, even if the CPS has no real case to offer, they must go to trial if the woman (or extremely rarely, the man) insists. Lysette was told twice that the CPS were not keen on going to trial but she insisted.
I know that Lysette will not like this article but, in spite of everything, I still have great affection for her, and hope we can eventually be friends and co-parent our son in a loving and sensible manner. I think she is a good mother to Jimi, and he is our main focus. I am still upset, however, that she was given spectacularly bad advice by some of her ‘friends’ (you know who you are) who not only took a vicarious pleasure in her infidelity and encouraged her in it, but vindictively advised her to pursue this groundless case, in spite of the obvious and possibly lasting harm to our son and me. The bottom line is that I would never seek to have a parent of my child put behind bars.
I am not receiving a fee for this article and, in writing it, I have not been motivated by spite or a desire for revenge. I simply wanted to put my side of the story.
It is extraordinary that a man can be put through all this pain, be found not guilty and yet still have his good reputation shredded.
I am currently composing a piano concerto, in which the pianist must wear handcuffs. It will be dedicated to the officer who arrested me.
Yesterday Lysette Anthony denied having an affair. She said: ‘I didn’t have an affair with that man. I wish I had had an affair but I did not. It is one of my life regrets.’ Ms Anthony said she called police on many occasions and was adamant she had never attempted suicide.